I am currently staring at an image of Arsene Wenger grinning at a press conference, backdropped by our club crest. Not what I had in mind yesterday afternoon.
So a disappointing evening, but this had been coming. You can talk about resilience and fighting spirit and all the rest of it, and we KEPT GOING TO THE END, but the truth is that our luck was due to run out, and there won’t be any debut silverware for Louis van Gaal.
It was a decent game for the most part, with a Proper Cup Tie™ atmosphere and some excellent stuff from both sides. The atmosphere seemed to galvanise the players into playing with a little more pace than we’ve been used to seeing recent weeks and I thought Arsenal looked a little nervous early on (not as nervous as Smalling of course). As a result we played some decent stuff and looked confident initially.
Arsenal’s first was excellent from Monreal, as was our immediate response. It was a welcome change at the time not having to wait until the 89th minute to equalise, and even better to see Angel Di Maria make a serious contribution. But some curious half-time changes seemed to peg us back, and then Antonio Valencia did the rest.
We are rapidly now turning into ‘Monaco’ Arsenal: undoubted talent and potential for a slick, well-oiled attacking unit brutally kneecapped by calamitous self-destruction. Like many of our games this season you can basically divide it into three phases: play decent, occasionally penetrative attacking football; drop a defensive bollock and scrabble around trying to fix it; and lastly, throw Fellaini forward and lump it up to him. And to Chris Smalling.
We also managed to cap things off by humiliating ourselves somewhat, both with more horrendous defensive errors and appalling diving. Januzaj can no longer use the excuse that he got kicked about in his first couple of seasons to justify his habit of going down like an extra from Platoon. It’s just plain embarrassing.
Di Maria, though still infuriatingly stuck out on the right hand side of midfield, looked sharp early on and his was a lovely cross onto Rooney’s head for the equaliser. But all is clearly not well with the Argentine still. He looks largely miserable in a United shirt, allergic to physical contact of any kind and losing the ball every few touches.
His two yellow cards were, to put it bluntly, a disgrace. The dive was a disgrace, the shirt tug on the referee was a joke, and there’s also a vine going around Twitter has him calling Michael Oliver “hijo de puta” (literally ‘son of a prostitute’). Objectionable little Mike-Dean’s-nephew-lookalike though Oliver is, that is the act of a man who probably doesn’t care whether he gets sent off or not.
There’s going to be a lot of bickering between the two sets of fans about the extent to which Welbeck influenced the game because it’s a jolly old story that the everyone’s enjoyed whipping up. But this was about more, really, than just Valencia’s epic f**k up. This was about us playing poorly, if not abjectly, and getting what we deserved.
It was also story of brain-dead idiocy, namely Valencia’s backpass, Di Maria’s red card, and Smalling’s entire 90 minute performance. Of the latter, it’s almost becoming a chore tapping out each key to form a sentence to describe just how bad Smalling has become.
The guy looks as if he needs at least 20 yards of space around him when receiving the ball in order to feel comfortable making a simple, short pass. By my count he had screwed up, or nearly screwed up, twice in the first 45 seconds of the game.
He appears to treat the ball like a hornet’s nest, head darting left and right in a sweaty panic every time he receives it. He reminds me of that kid on the playground who didn’t even like football, but joined in the game with the bigger boys anyway because he hasn’t got any other mates. You have to believe that the second the whistle goes on the final game of the season, van Gaal will be showing Smalling, and probably Valencia, the door marked ‘Do One’.
There’s much more to say and dissect, and I’ll get into into tomorrow morning. Last thing to say is hats off to Danny Welbeck, and hats off again to the crowd at OT who were singing from the very beginning, singing right after Monreal scored Arsenal’s first, singing in stoppage time as we lumped it forward and if I’m not mistaken, singing at the end as the players were trooping off. Superb.
Til tomorrow morning. Sorry for any typos this morning, really had to bash it out.